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Tougher ID Requirements For Domestic Flights Postponed To 2021

Starting in October 2021, passengers on domestic flights will probably need a REAL ID-complaint identification document to board a domestic flight.
Mary Altaffer

If you don't already have a REAL ID-compliant drivers license or ID, you have an additional year to get one before you probably need it to board a domestic flight.

The Dept. of Homeland Security has pushed back the enforcement deadline from Oct. 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is "essentially an enhanced drivers license," as NPR's Brian Naylor has reported, compliant with legislation passed by Congress back in 2005 to unify security standards for the IDs across states.

"The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement Thursday.

"States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs," Wolf added. "This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID."

You can tell if your ID is REAL ID-compliant by checking if it has a star on the top, a star inside a circle, or a bear with a star, according to DHS. Several states such as Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont issue Enhanced Drivers Licenses (EDL), which will also be accepted, even though they don't carry a star marking.

Almost every state is currently issuing drivers licenses that meet these standards. DHS had said that all states are "on track to begin issuing compliant licenses and IDs by the October 1, 2020 deadline," though it's not clear if that has changed in light of the pandemic.

These IDs will also be needed to enter most federal buildings and military bases.

Even after the new enforcement deadline passes, there are a few other types of documents that will be accepted instead, such as a passport or U.S. military ID.

And as Naylor reported, "REAL ID has been fought by many states that objected to the new law, saying it's a form of national ID or too expensive to implement."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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